The Arizona primary election will be held on August 30, 2016. Reproductive health care access has been under attack, both nationally and statewide, but Planned Parenthood Advocates of Arizona has endorsed candidates who have shown strong commitment to reproductive justice. To acquaint you with our endorsed candidates, we are running a series called “Meet Our Candidates.” In order to vote in the primary election, you must register to vote by August 1 — and can even register online. Make your voice heard in 2016!
Maritza Miranda Saenz is running for the Arizona Senate to represent Legislative District 27, which encompasses parts of Central Phoenix and the communities of Laveen, South Mountain, and Guadalupe. She is a candidate who comes from a family with experience in both law and grassroots politics. Her mother, Lucy Lopez-Goss, served indigent clients for the Maricopa County Office of the Legal Defender, and her father, the late Rep. Ben Miranda, served the area as a legislator, attorney, and activist. It is a tradition Miranda Saenz carried on while working alongside her father for 15 years. Her involvement in the community continued as she started a small business that mentors area youth. Miranda Saenz entered the race with an interest in supporting education and small businesses in Arizona, as well as protecting our voting rights and environment.
“I believe the ability to control one’s own body is an issue of justice and freedom.”
Since 2015, Miranda Saenz’s opponent, Catherine Miranda, has been the Democratic Senator for LD 27. Before that, Catherine served in the AZ House since 2011. During Catherine Miranda’s Senate bid in 2014, we gave her the spotlight on this blog for a very different reason. As we wrote then, “A lot of us might assume that a female Democrat will be a fierce advocate for reproductive rights, but that’s not always a safe assumption” — and, as we summarized then, Rep. Miranda has turned that assumption on its head time and again. In her five years in the Senate, Rep. Miranda has supported legislation to ban state funding for abortion providers, restrict the administration of medication abortions, and create other new barriers to reproductive health care. Rep. Miranda’s record earned her an “anti-choice” classification from NARAL Pro-Choice Arizona, as well as the endorsement of Arizona Right to Life.
Maritza Miranda Saenz thinks the voters of LD 27 need an alternative. On July 14, she generously took the time for an interview to tell us more about her candidacy and what’s at stake in the election.
Tell us a little about your background.
I am a mom, small business owner, and lifelong Democrat born and raised in South Phoenix. My husband and I are raising our four kids in the district and are deeply invested in the future of our community. I was raised with a sense of obligation to fight for working class families. I strongly believe that women should be the only decision makers about their own health care needs.
What kind of beneficial legislation would you like to see introduced, and why do you think it’s important to fight for it?
Aside from fighting for more funding for education and working to support small businesses, I will fight to have comprehensive sex education legislation passed. This should be accurate and include information making clear that kids identifying as LGBT are absolutely normal. I strongly believe that this type of education will help prepare all students to graduate with a stronger sense of self-awareness and ability to protect themselves. I would also like to defend our health care decisions from reproach by the Republicans who have stripped our individual rights to accessible women’s health care and reproductive services. The encroachment on a woman’s private health care decisions can no longer be tolerated. I want to work with health care advocates like Planned Parenthood to protect the women of my district and women statewide.
Some Arizona school districts, like Tucson Unified School District, are beginning to include comprehensive sex education in their classrooms, but progress has been slow. How would you like to see sexuality education addressed on a statewide level?
I would like to introduce sexuality education as a means to protect our children against sexual predators, help them identify unhealthy relationships, and provide them with a firm understanding of the decisions they may have to face. I believe we need to define healthy relationships in order to protect our students and help create adults who can make the best health care decisions for themselves.
Why do you think it’s important that people make their own health care decisions?
I believe the ability to control one’s own body is an issue of justice and freedom — to try to tell someone when and how to start a family is a way of taking away their agency as an individual. It’s discrimination. Everyone is different. On top of that we all come from different backgrounds, have individual experiences and need individualized treatment. Therefore, it is important that people make their own health care decisions. Each person must have accurate information readily available and options to carry out any decision made.
Why was it important for you to be endorsed by Planned Parenthood Advocates of Arizona?
I strongly believe in a woman’s right to choose. Planned Parenthood Advocates of Arizona is the organization that provides a strong voice for women in terms of health care rights. They have been fighting for the rights of our communities to have adequate sex education for all ages and accessible healthcare. I want the community to know that I stand with Planned Parenthood Advocates of Arizona and their commitment to make our families healthier. Their endorsement means that they know they will have an ally fighting for the women of my community.
You’re running against a candidate who opposes abortion rights, but she’s also another Democrat and happens to be your stepmother. What is it like differentiating yourself and your campaign?
It hasn’t been too difficult because other than party affiliation and name, we have very little in common. Over the last five months that I have been knocking on thousands of doors in the district and talking to thousands of voters, many have expressed frustration with my opponent’s decisions. From her embrace of corporate dark money and endorsements of Doug Ducey and Michele Reagan, to her votes against working families and leadership of the anti-choice movement, it is clear to folks that she has lost sight of the needs of the people. The responses that we’ve been receiving from the people of LD 27 have been overwhelmingly positive and incredibly energizing, and I hope to earn their support to be the Democratic nominee for State Senate.